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By Jeremy Knox | June 7, 2006

“Frostbite,” Sweden’s first vampire movie, made its North American Premiere at 2006’s Seattle International Film Festival. Anders Banke’s teenybopper horror comedy screened as a “Midnight Adrenaline” entry at Capitol Hill’s hip Egyptian Theatre. Traditionally the festival’s most extreme bracket, past “Midnight Adrenaline” fodder has included “Dead or Alive” (Takashi Miike), “Hole in my Heart” (Lukas Moodysson) and “Battle Royale” (Kinji Fukasaku), three of cinema’s most notorious, cutting-edge offenders. Call me biased, but for a category bursting at its seams with extreme decadence, debauchery, and cheap thrills, “Frostbite” doesn’t make the grade.

Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and “Scream” infiltrated the fear-film genre, something’s been rotten in Transylvania. Playing horror for winking insider references and juvenile giggles, any real juice has been extracted from the cutting-edge school of cinema that spawned “Re-Animator,” “Dead Alive,” and “Evil Dead,” three brilliant examples of horror that combined ferocious splatter with truly inspired humor. In comparison, “Frostbite” is too little, too late.

Female physician Annika (Petra Nielsen) moves to a new town, with teenaged daughter Saga (Grete Havneskold) in tow. Taking up work at a hospital, she’s impressed with the genetic research practiced by top doc Gerhard Beckert (Carl Ake-Eriksson). Meanwhile, Saga meets Vega (Emma Aberg), the town’s reigning goodtime girl, and is invited to a party.

Via a hospital “connection,” Vega distributes some experimental red pills to her drug-seeking party peers. Instead of providing a pleasant high, the mystery meds produce a macabre ability to speak with animals (“You’re gonna burn! Hee-hee-hee,” cackles a smartass pug to a teenaged pill-abuser). They also prompt an insatiable thirst for blood. In one of the movie’s few truly memorable moments, a young suitor – eating dinner with his girlfriend and her parents for the first time – hurls the garlic-saturated meal. Then he feasts on the family bunny’s jugular. Not a way to make a good impression with potential in-laws, especially after disposing of said bunny in their dirty linen hamper.

“Frostbite” culminates with a coven of fresh-faced high schoolers trying to look like undead bloodsuckers, as the party becomes an out-of-control neck-buffet. This story thread is interwoven with Annika’s startled discovery that Dr. Beckert – manufacturer of the problematic crimson tablets – is up to some diabolical troublemaking. We’re also thrown a half-baked prelude involving Nazi officers served up as vampire bloodsickles during World War II. Ultimately, not much of this makes sense – or really goes over-the-top. Splatter fans will be disappointed at the film’s lack of groundbreaking gore.

Some inspired moments emerge in Banke’s silly Swedish thriller. When a sneaky, silent intruder approaches a bed-bound hospital patient, the man’s silhouette suggests he’s carrying a vampire-wasting hammer and stake. But it’s actually a flower and vase that he’s placing alongside the patient’s bed.

Funny stuff. But there’s little in “Frostbite” that we haven’t already seen in hundreds of throwaway teen-horror romps. Despite its month-long polar night, Sweden doesn’t have anything new to offer the genre of fangs, immortality, and forced blood transfusions.

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